Written for Writersweekly.com Short Story contest
| The clock stopped; and then started to go backward. Brad began to breathe again. The blood on his shirt slowly disappeared and his moaning stopped. His hand grabbed the papers on the floor, and he sat up. She moved back from the center of the room to her desk and put the gun back in the open drawer. She shut the drawer. Brad was now standing in front of her, her manuscript in his hand. The blood was gone from its pages. She sat down in her chair, smoothing her skirt. His expression was changing from one of surprise to that of a gentle smile.
It was 12:15 again and the second hand on the large clock in the corner started to move clockwise. Brad was speaking, "Babcock and Stark will publish Danni’s Wild Rose with a first printing of fifty thou, and HBO wants first option on movie rights." And she thought she had a doofus as an agent! When he walked in, she was ready to fire him, or worse.
The sound of a siren on a passing ambulance brought her mind back. It couldn’t be for Brad Pearce; the cop said he was dead. The blue and white hit a speed bump and headed down the ramp to the garage. It pulled to a stop at the elevator. The uniform on the passenger’s side got out, opened her door and hustled her to her feet. The door to the lift opened. They entered.
Upstairs mug shots were snapped, fingers were printed and a phone was offered. She tried to call Brad but got his machine. Arraignment was quick. Bail was not an option. Before she was put in her cell, a matron led her to a small room where her body cavities were probed for contraband.
Her trial took place three months later. A well-chosen jury and incompetent prosecution rewarded her with fifteen to twenty, shortened by good behavior to nine. Now she was home, in a small house in the country. She bought it with money saved from her gritty writings published while in the stir. The name on her mailbox, Jill Preston, was new. She was a different writer now. Seeing horses, cows, pastures and rolling hills unleashed pages of romance. Her publisher snapped up her first book.
The second was coming slowly. Her protagonist Lea was a writer, tied in an unhappy marriage with Devin, and working on a doomed romance between a young woman and a RAF pilot. She thought the novel within a novel device would be interesting, especially if she fleshed out the life of Lea’s unhappy husband, but she was finding it difficult.
The weather did not help. Snow had started falling after breakfast. There was four inches on the ground already, and the wind had picked up. From her window in her bedroom that doubled as her studio, she couldn’t see the barn a quarter mile away across the field. The glare of the snow hurt her eyes as she tried to type. Though it was only one o’clock, her bed beckoned. She made herself a cup of tea, turned on the television and snuggled under the goose down quilt.
She felt drowsy and dozed off and on. Self-help marathons filled the screen: “Jackie Sue,” “Betty Jane” and now, “Dr. Herb.” A crawl ran across the bottom of the screen announcing cancellations and storm news. The weather service warned of blizzard conditions. It was getting dark. The howling wind made hearing the sound difficult, but as the balding host spoke, Jill perked up. Dr. Herb was introducing his next guest, an author flogging a book titled Get Real. Jill had dreams of being invited on the show. The wind died down; the volume grew loud.
“Let’s hear it for the man who tells us to stop dreaming and live life, Brad Pearce.”
The audience applauded wildly. Her daydream fled and her eyes focused on the screen. It WAS Brad Pearce, looking as he did the day he walked into her studio to meet his maker ten years ago.
Jill sat up on the side of the bed, stunned. Brad was prattling about people not being realistic. He tore apart the dream of the woman sitting next to him on Dr. Herb’s couch. She had delusions of being a romance writer.
“You have no talent, woman! Go back to the bank where you were a teller.”
Jill found herself at her desk. The floor was cold on her bare feet. She felt a draft from the window. A strip of rope caulking had fallen off. She looked down; the top left drawer was open. She grabbed a shiny object and pulled it out, pointed it at the screen, and squeezed.
The State Police had a hard time reaching the house in the blizzard. Devin Preston, her husband of seventeen years, had been dead for some time. The bullet caught him flush in the head as he entered the room bringing her a cup of tea. An investigator found a closet piled with manuscripts. The top shelf held a shoebox filled with rejection slips from publishers. The detective was about to leave when he noticed the large clock in the corner of the room. It was stopped. He slammed his hand against its case. It began to run, backwards.
Valatie NY January 26,
The theme to be used was a woman, sitting in a house during a blizzard, seeing someone who had been dead ten years appearing live on television. 950 words was the limit. I drew my inspiration from a writer's prompt I had written for Rhyssa's Free To Write forum, and borrowed the idea of the writer and her novel from Pam's unfinished work.